Education support workers ratify deal

Member of CUPE and supporters rally outside MPP Andrew Dowie's officer in Windsor, November 4, 2022. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

It’s a deal.

Education support workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees have accepted a tentative deal with the Ontario government, ending a contentious labour dispute.

CUPE released the results of a ratification vote on Monday morning, 11 days after members began casting their vote online.

The union said 76 per cent of its 55,000 members voted. Seventy-three per cent of those who cast a ballot accepted the offer.

“For the first time in a decade, education workers achieved a collective agreement that didn’t impose terms through legislation,” read a notice on the union’s Twitter feed.

Ratification was never a sure thing. Even after the two sides reached the agreement on November 20, Laura Walton, the president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, expressed misgivings about it.

“As a mom, I don’t like this deal. As a worker, I don’t like this deal. As the president of the OSBCU, I understand why this is the deal that’s on the table,” she said.

She also said if the membership rejected the agreement, the two sides would return to the bargaining table.

The Ontario government and CUPE reached the deal after a two-day protest by workers. The Ontario government responded with legislation imposing a contract on the 55,000 workers using the notwithstanding clause to get around constitutional concerns. CUPE agreed to return to bargaining when the Ontario government promised to repeal the legislation.

The workers, which include custodians, office staff, educational assistants, and early childhood educators, will get a wage increase. The lowest paid will get another 3.59 per cent more a year, while those at the top of the pay grid will get another 1.8 per cent.

The union originallly demanded 11.7 per cent more, per year, for members, many of whom make less than $40,000 a year.

The Ontario government continues to bargain with the four main teachers’ unions, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.